Your RDA of Irony

The Borgia Report

Ave Deus for the Middle-Aged.  Otherwise, The Borgias would be “Vatican Hill 90210” with a cast of quite annoying youngsters.  Yes, the nude scenes of the English actress playing Lucretia won’t be painful–although by the 47th time they may get monotonous.  But Cesare seems more smarmy than ruthless, and I am trying to use my HD television to murder the preening twit playing Juan Borgia.  (I keep lunging at him but I can’t quite get through the TV screen; I am complaining to Comcast!)  However, the series has the saving disgrace of Jeremy Irons–and he is more than enough reason to keep watching.  In Iron’s  portrayal of  Pope Alexander VI and the father of the Borgia brood, you can feel both the pleasure and the hard work of being thoroughly corrupt. 

Of course, in keeping with television’s exacting standards for historical accuracy, the show is a litany of errors.  The series doesn’t even get right the number of the Pope’s children.  Showtime seems determined to present the Borgias as the Renaissance Corleones; so if Vito only had four children, then Pope Alexander can’t have more than that.  In fact, he had at least six–with two mistresses.  (A seventh is in dispute because a third mistress was also “dating” her husband.)  The series also scrambles the chronology of the Borgia brats.    Cesare is introduced as the firstborn; actually, the incompetent Juan was.  So much for the belabored Godfather metaphors; the Machiavellian Michael Corleone was younger than the reckless Sonny.    But I am still waiting to see if Leonardo daVinci is compared to Frank Sinatra, and if the Pope backs Columbus’ plan to discover Las Vegas.

More Borgia gossip, from the archives:

And, for a change of pace, here is today’s  saint:

  1. Mary Ann Jung says:

    Thanks for sparing me the trouble of looking up the innaccuracies! I want the costumes though-or at least their budget!

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Hi Mary Ann,

      The poisoning of Cardinal Orsini (alias Derek Jacobi) was also inaccurately depicted. There indeed was a Cardinal Orsini, but then there always was one in the Renaissance church. He died in 1502, while imprisoned in Castel Santangelo. That would have been about ten years later than on the show.


      • Eugene Finerman says:


        Mary Ann,

        Did you notice the basilica where his “Holiness” was coronated? That was a computer-generated graphic of how the original St. Peter’s likely looked. There was that long line of Roman columns, dating from Constantine’s time. Decorating the apse were Byzantine-style mosaics. However splendid it looked, the building was deteriorating and couldn’t be saved. The successor of Pope Alexander, Cardinal della Rovere (alias Julius II) authorized the demolition of St. Peter’s, although he didn’t have any money for reconstruction. Raising the funds would be left to his successor–who somehow was omitted from the early episodes of The Borgias. You would think that a 16 year-old cardinal would be rather conspicuous. However, Giovanni de Medici (later Leo X) was not the type who would be interested in Lucretia; that would also explain why he was one of the few Popes who didn’t have mistresses and bambinos.


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